There Are Only Two Types of Features That Deserve Top Priority

by

Priority-Police_Web.jpg

Scope creep sinks many projects. And the best way to manage scope is to create basic rules about which features are going to receive top priority. With basic rules, you can hopefully get away from the traditional pitfalls of prioritization:

  1. The squeaky wheel – “But I really want it and I’m important!”
  2. The untested default – “I know what my customers want because it was in the legacy version.”

A while back, I was helping a client think through how to prioritize features for a new, complex, custom system. When I started listing the types of features that should go to the top of the queue, I figured I would end up with about three or four criteria that would fit that bill. But, I got stuck at two and I couldn’t think of any more.

Here’s what made the cut; top priority features must pass one of these rules:

  1. They create a compelling end-user experience
  2. They accelerate rapid experimentation and deployment of new features (DevOps-like stuff)

Now, there can be a lot of healthy argument about what qualifies a feature as fitting either of those rules (especially the first one), but it becomes very easy to see what DOESN’T make the cut: anything related to back-office (assuming they aren’t the end-user) or other supporting non-customer facing functions. And yes, I’ve heard the argument: “This feature will cost us less than we are paying Johnny to do that manually every month.” Fine, then let’s find another way to help Johnny. Create a macro for his spreadsheet. Build something that he runs locally. Just keep Johnny’s time-saving needs away from our new complex system.

Why prioritize the needs of a limited community (which in some cases is just Johnny, but even if we’re talking about twenty or hundreds of people) over thousands or millions of customers or prospects? True, making the lives of operations, finance, HR, etc. easier should and could have a trickle-down effect on your customers. But, helping those customers directly is always a clearer return on investment than helping them indirectly.

But, what about “mandatory” features? Doesn’t it have to work in all 50 states? What about regulatory requirements? Maybe, but challenge all of that. Everything is negotiable when you limit the scope of related functionality. Look at what Intuit did with SnapTax. Initially, it only worked with simple tax returns and only in California. You can bet that someone at Intuit was jumping up and down that it had to be multi-state and it had to handle more complex returns before it could be rolled out. And eventually, some of that functionality was rolled out. Prioritization is about WHEN more than about IF (with the caveat that the lower priority features might never make the cut). New ideas that have top priority attributes should always rise to the top.

Providing customers with newer, better, or additional functionality (and having the mechanism to get it to them quickly and to pivot based on experiments) is the lifeblood of companies and the driver of innovation. That’s the power of technology. A lot of other things are important too but nowhere near the top priority.

 

READ MORE

The Leadership Dog Years

The Leadership Dog Years

As a business leader, I feel like I’ve been living in dog years — so much has happened that this year feels more like seven. In the spring, our company — like many others — had to throw out our annual plans and quickly pivot to new ones. In the summer, we increased...

read more
Shifting Perspectives: 3 Learnings From a 3-Day Training

Shifting Perspectives: 3 Learnings From a 3-Day Training

About a week ago, I completed the second live (virtual) training in the process of becoming a Certified Professional Coach through iPEC. Once again, my mind was blown! It reinforced for me that virtual workshops can, and do, work, and, in a lot of ways, I prefer them...

read more
Finding My Work-Life Balance

Finding My Work-Life Balance

In my previous post, I told the story of how I got back into consulting after becoming a mom. All of the diverse experiences I had during that journey have helped me to find my work-life balance by… Defining Boundaries “Go home,” my first boss said 12 years back —...

read more
How I Got Back to Work After Being a Full-Time Mom

How I Got Back to Work After Being a Full-Time Mom

I Landed My Dream Job Throwback to 2014, I had completed my MBA, landed my dream job as a consultant, and was hoping that my new consulting career would exponentially ramp up my career growth for the next 5 years. This would position me to take on critical decision...

read more
Self-Awareness is Key to Belonging

Self-Awareness is Key to Belonging

In August of this year, as part of our annual company meeting, our team at Thought Ensemble participated in the foundational session of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) training led by Dr. Nika White, IOM, CDE (she/her/hers). One of the most meaningful moments...

read more
Finding Your Organization’s Magic Pixie Dust

Finding Your Organization’s Magic Pixie Dust

It is often said that organizational culture is like a fog — it is all around us; it impacts our ability to see, to move quickly, and to deliver; but we cannot quite put our finger on it. Indeed, some organizations see their culture as a byproduct of operations,...

read more
We’ve Refreshed Our Brand!

We’ve Refreshed Our Brand!

Why have we refreshed our brand, you ask? Well, as we have grown and matured as an organization, we felt that our previous brand elements no longer represented us as well as they could. You see, we founded Thought Ensemble back in 2008 to help companies better compete...

read more
Thought Ensemble’s Purpose — Inspired in 2020

Thought Ensemble’s Purpose — Inspired in 2020

I recently wrote about how company purpose is being tested and inspired by all the events of 2020. This topic is very real for us at Thought Ensemble. We’ve been thinking a lot about what really matters as we’ve navigated the challenges of this year. While we’ve had...

read more